Scranton-area hard rock musician Jay Luke finds himself in a rather ironic position. The very thing he’s railing against in his new single — social media and people being tethered to their phones — has also helped him find a larger audience.
The cell Luke refers to in the song “Trapped in Your Cell,” which debuted this week, is a cellphone.
“I think the majority of people are living in a text message world,” says the singer and guitarist. “Many times you look at a couple at dinner and the one person isn’t paying attention to the other person. It’s the kind of thing that goes on over and over again. You’re not paying attention because you’re literally in a prison cell.”
Online platforms like Spotify and YouTube, however, have allowed Luke to spread his music beyond his hometown area. While those are opportunities available to most artists, he’s been able to track his plays and he’s found that many of them come from overseas.
“I feel super fortunate that another thing, when I talk about us being in the text message world, what I’m so used to as a musician is charts mattering and music videos mattering,” he explains. “And in truth, now YouTube hits matter, and how many times you’ve been streamed on Spotify matters.”
Two tracks from his most recent album, last year’s “Vandalized Memories,” ended up on several Spotify playlists, and he’s racked up almost 100,000 total streams in the past two years.
“I’ve really found this fan base that’s farther away,” he says. “You get the analytics, and sometimes Rio de Janeiro or somewhere has a lot of people that listen to me, which is cool.”
From 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, he’ll perform for the Steamtown Live livestream, hosted by The Marketplace at Steamtown in Scranton.
Luke, from Throop, Pa., had been playing in bands such as The Mess since 2003, sharing stages with artists like Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, Richie Ramone and Metal Church.
“My mom was a huge fan of the Rolling Stones, and my father was a huge Led Zeppelin fan,” Luke says. “That was kind of my first influence in music. And I was probably the first MTV generation, so that was my babysitter, MTV. I got into bands like Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses.”
When listing his vocal influences — Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Axl Rose, David Bowie and David Gilmour — he points out, “Just because some of them may have had an influence on me doesn’t mean I can sing like them.” On guitar, he’s looked up to Eddie Van Halen (“probably my music Jesus for the longest time”), Andy McCoy of Finnish glam metal band Hanoi Rocks, Jimmy Page and Rush’s Alex Lifeson.
Luke says he had about 50 shows booked for 2020 before the coronavirus shutdown. He was also working on recording an album before the studio where he was tracking, JL Studios in Olyphant, closed down for the same reason.
“I have about five songs, four are completely done,” he says. “The fifth one is just without a guitar solo at the moment. Just like anybody else, I thought the world was going on. I talked to Joe [Loftus, of JL Studios] and said, ‘Can we finalize the mix on at least one of the songs to just keep content up?’
“I’m holding on to believing that his studio is going to open again [soon],” he said, laughing. “I want to ideally have an album out. I know I definitely have another single I could release. I want to do nine or 10 sogs and have that just be the next [album] release.”
He also can’t wait to perform in the same room as an audience again.
“For me, I feel that life is so stressful all the time, especially things going around particular shows,” he says. “In a band scenario, it could be, ‘Is the drummer going to show up?’ and ‘Is this guy’s girlfriend going to cause a problem?’ The one time I feel like nothing can touch me or bother me is on stage.”
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